The Social and Cultural Study of Music: Then and Now
A Symposium in Honour of John Shepherd
Carleton University, Ottawa, 24–25 Nov. 2017

During the late 1970s and early 80s, an emerging body of literature based in sociology, popular music, feminism, cultural and critical theory began to infiltrate the study of music, challenging the objects and methods of conventional music theory and musicology, on the one hand, and questioning Western classical music as the primary musical text, on the other.  Issues of class, identity, race, gender and sexuality, technology, industry, values and aesthetics came to the fore and popular musics, genres and fandom slowly gained status as legitimate areas of study. Today, these issues continue to inform much writing and theorizing about music but new areas of inquiry – ethnography, music in everyday life, sound studies, music and the moving image, cities and scenes, disability studies, digitalization and others – have added to the increasingly inter-disciplinary character of music as an area of cultural study. 

In the forty years since he first co-edited Whose Music?: A Sociology of Musical Languages (with Phil Virden, Graham Vulliamy and Trevor Wishart, 1977) John Shepherd’s work has been among the most consistently challenging in its scope and its theoretical implications for our understanding of music as a social phenomenon.  In an extensive series of works – including Music as Social Text (1991) and Music and Cultural Theory (with Peter Wicke, 1997) – and major encyclopedias and anthologies – The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World (with David Horn, et al, 2003–17) and The Routledge Reader on The Sociology of Music (with Kyle Devine, 2015) – Shepherd has helped define the social and cultural study of music.  In his many years of teaching and leadership, Shepherd has also helped establish Carleton University as a centre for research and pedagogy in music, society and culture.

The purpose of the symposium is to reconsider the historical development of the social and cultural study of music (including John Shepherd’s contribution), its successes and blind spots and, equally important, to rethink and reformulate it for the 21st century.  Now in its 50th year, the Music program of the School for Studies in Art and Culture invites paper proposals (max. 300 words, for 20-minute papers) for a symposium to be held at Carleton University, 24–25 November 2017.

Topics and panels may include:

  • Society and culture in the academic study of music – successes and failures
  • Music, Anglo-American cultural studies, continental theory: 20th & 21st century perspectives
  • The circulation of music in audio-visual and mobile media
  • Fandom and identity formation in the 21st century
  • Dance, music and the body
  • Music and digital economies: Big data, little income – implications for fans and artists
  • Critical appraisals of the work of John Shepherd

Please send proposals to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 1 September 2017.  Participants will be notified no later than 30 September 2017.

Inquiries: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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